Include these 12 best practices when you’re designing your customer experience strategy

Include these 12 best practices when you’re designing your customer experience strategy

One of the world’s 10 most valuable brands and iconic fast-food franchisor recently made a number of welcomed changes. Faced with declining sales, this beloved fast-food icon decided to implement some customer-driven changes. Improvements included simplifying their menu, using higher quality ingredients, upgrading restaurant interiors, installing self-service ordering kiosks, and adding table-side service.

These changes resulted in better order accuracy and shorter customer wait times, proving that listening to customers really can lead to better CX!

These types of CX improvements don't happen accidentally or organically. Companies that are known for their CX have a customer experience strategy that provides structure and discipline to how they approach CX.

By now, you may have heard the often-used statistic that over two-thirds of businesses now compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, and that number is expected to grow.[i] Here are some additional statistics that illustrate the importance of having a good customer experience strategy:

  • Most consumers agree they are willing to buy more products (87%) and are willing to recommend a company to others (81%) if they have an exceptional customer service experience.[ii]

To sum it up, CX influences purchasing behavior, brand advocacy, customer loyalty, and, ultimately, business results. There's a good reason the current business environment is referred to as the experience economy. Consistently superior CX can put businesses at the front of the pack, while regular missteps can send customers running.

When the stakes are this high, businesses need a top-notch customer experience strategy to keep them on the path to success.

What is the connection between Brand and CX?

With the recent focus on customer experience, do you find yourself wondering what the difference is between brand experience and customer experience? If so, you are not alone. While they are interconnected, they are different strategies designed to build customer loyalty. Brands are meant to create an expectation for what the consumer values most. It is a promise distilled into sensory symbolism. Customer experience is equal parts strategy for how to deliver the brand promise and a way to measure success. A successful customer experience strategy always builds off a brands’ values.

What is a customer experience strategy?

A customer experience strategy is a company's plan for continuously improving experiences across all touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It's based on a thorough understanding of what customers expect and need from the organization, as well as an honest evaluation of the business's CX strengths and weaknesses.

The CX strategy is forward-looking and therefore should contain a vision for the future customer experience and detailed tactics for how to get there. The strategy is tied to overall business goals and should guide CX-related investment and resource allocation decisions.

What are the components of a customer experience strategy?

According to Forrester, a CX strategy should have the following six major components:

1. A CX vision

A CX vision is a succinct, aspirational statement about what types of experiences the company wants to provide to its customers. It should inspire the business's employees and enable them to make informed decisions about issues and initiatives that impact customers. It's also the foundation of the entire customer experience strategy.

Nordstrom is a retailer that's renowned for its exceptional CX. Here's their corporate vision statement, which is a great example of how a CX vision statement should be structured:

"Our goals are simple: to serve our customers better, to always be relevant in their lives, and to form lifelong relationships. And while serving our customers face-to-face is the foundation and hallmark of how we've historically served them, today customers seek our service in new ways. Speed, convenience, innovation, and personalization have become cornerstones of the customer experience. Guided by these new needs, we continue to invest in the cross-channel experience, combining the accessibility of a purely online experience with the high-touch inclusivity of our stores."

2. A customer description

Because a CX strategy is wholly customer-focused, another essential component of the strategy is a customer description. Businesses may want to use customer personas for this step in the process to develop more granular customer descriptions.

Use customer input from contact center interactions, product reviews, and other sources to identify customer needs, expectations, preferences, motivations, and other characteristics. This better understanding of customers will help organizations identify initiatives that will bring them closer to delivering the CX customers want.

3. Gap analysis

Once you have your aspirational CX vision statement and detailed customer descriptions, it's time to do a gap analysis between the future vision of CX and the current state. This component of the customer experience strategy identifies areas that need to be improved in order to get to the future state.

As an example, if, like Nordstrom, your business's CX vision includes prioritizing cross-channel experiences, but your contact center doesn't have omnichannel capabilities, that's a gap to be filled. Similarly, if customer descriptions reveal that customers highly value speed and convenience, but your company's call center isn't open 24/7 and you don't offer self-service, that's another gap.

4. A road map

road map 

The road map is the detailed plan for closing the gaps and fulfilling the CX vision. It should include tactics and initiatives that will improve CX in keeping with the vision. It also needs to include details for each initiative such as timelines, enabling technology, costs, and needed resources.

5. An accountability outline

Executing a customer experience strategy is an enterprise-wide undertaking. Most teams within the business have either a direct or indirect impact on CX. For example, a customer can form their opinion of a company based on product and product packaging, blog content, website graphics, press releases, mobile app quality, and, of course, customer service interactions.

Keeping all these touchpoints and responsibilities straight can be a complex task. An accountability outline can help keep track of who is responsible for what, which prevents confusion and keeps tasks from falling through the cracks.

6. KPIs

The customer experience strategy should outline what KPIs will be measured to ensure the initiative is on track. This part of the strategy should also include KPI targets that are in line with the scope of the changes. For example, if the CX vision calls for only modest improvements, the business shouldn't set unattainable stretch goals.

Common CX metrics to include in the KPI section include:

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) - measures satisfaction at a specific point in time with a specific aspect of the business.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) - measures a customer's likelihood to recommend a brand and is correlated to customer loyalty.
  • Customer effort score (CES) - indicates how much work a customer has to do when transacting with a company, which makes it a particularly relevant metric for contact centers.
  • Social media – measures social media reach, share of voice, amplification, engagement, and conversion.

The customer experience strategy should be reviewed and refined regularly to reflect evolving consumer trends and business objectives.

Best practices to follow when developing a customer experience strategy

best practices 

Developing a good CX strategy is essential for a brand's business viability. To ensure you create a winning customer experience strategy, incorporate the following twelve best practices into your design process.

1. Create "As-is" customer journey maps

Creating a map of the current customer journey is an important component of completing a gap analysis. A customer journey map should show what customers experience at each touchpoint on their path to achieving a goal with a business.

A good map illustrates what customers are thinking and feeling during the journey, and also includes operational data that can illuminate sources of delight and frustration. When compared to a "future state" customer journey map, the gaps should be quite clear.

2. Conduct competitive analysis

What kind of CX are your competitors providing? You don't want to get into a position in which you're always copying the competition, but you at least need to pull up beside them before you can move ahead. Plus, conducting competitive analysis can provide the fuel for new ideas and innovation. For additional ideas, expand your research to CX leaders beyond your own industry.

3. Assess personnel and address shortcomings

A new customer experience strategy typically relies on qualified employees to execute the supporting initiatives. This may require businesses to train new skills or create new positions and fill them externally. For example, if one of the tactics involves implementing more digital channels, the business will probably need to train contact center agents on how to use the new software and how to effectively connect with customers digitally.

4. Empower employees

All too often, employees that interact directly with customers are constrained by policies that prevent them from providing truly great experiences. As an example, refund policies may prevent customer service agents from resolving certain issues in a way that satisfies customers. When developing the future state CX, ensure frontline workers have the power to make customers happy.

5. Review contact center technology

The contact center plays a vital role in executing the customer experience strategy because it’s a specialized hub that connects customers and prospective customers to different parts of the business. Therefore, having the right customer experience interaction platform is critical. The right platform will empower employees, reduce friction for customers, and scale to rapidly meet fast-changing customer needs. 

Sadly, older call centers do not meet these criteria. Many of them use antiquated technology that results in siloed applications, limited operational data, and the inability to seamlessly support self-service and digital channels. This ultimately will prevent companies from optimizing CX and achieving their strategic goals. As a result, businesses may need to modernize their contact center technology.

6. Collaborate cross-functionally

A customer experience strategy impacts and applies to everyone in the enterprise. Success depends on input and buy-in from most, if not all, of the business teams. Developing and executing the strategy should be a cross-functional collaborative effort. Structured brainstorming sessions can be an effective way to develop the CX vision and identify tactics that will help the business move towards the vision.

7. Listen to your customers

The best way to identify what your customers really want is to listen to them. Gather as much customer input as possible from sources such as satisfaction surveys, customer service interactions, social media posts, product reviews, and more. To make the most of contact center data, consider using AI-powered interaction analytics software that can analyze 100% of interactions from voice and digital channels and provide valuable insights into how customers are feeling and why they're contacting customer service.

8. Focus on making it easy for your customers

simple easy fast solution 

Whether making a purchase or seeking assistance, today's consumers want easy, instant gratification. When developing your future state customer experience, focus on streamlining customer-facing technology and processes so customers can easily and conveniently get what they need. Your solutions might include:

  • Omnichannel experiences - so customers can have seamless interactions in their channels of choice.
  • Self-service - provides customers with 24/7 access to your company in a way most people prefer.
  • AI routing - smarter routing increases the odds that customers' issues will be resolved during the first contact and reduces the transfers that customers find so frustrating.

9. Review consistency of service channels

According to Salesforce, the average business supports nine different service channels.[vi] With that many channels in play, it can be difficult to ensure all of them are providing consistent experiences. Getting different answers or experiencing different wait times across channels adds friction to the customer journey and should be eliminated.

10. Leverage AI

As you're reviewing your gap analysis and identifying CX tactics, look for opportunities to leverage artificial intelligence. AI is transforming the way businesses operate and interact with customers. Just in the contact center, AI can:

  • Increase the accuracy of forecasts and schedules so customers don't need to wait as long for agent assistance.
  • Improve routing quality so customers are more likely to be matched with qualified agents that will make personal connections with them.
  • Coach agents in real-time about soft skills that can improve customer satisfaction.
  • Determine customer sentiment so contact center leaders can determine if their CX initiatives are working.
  • Provide smarter self-service in the IVR and digital channels.

11. Assess the organization's readiness for change

Executing an ambitious CX strategy can put stress on an organization. After all, many people don't like change and will resist it. If your business is already experiencing stress and employee burnout, adding a big CX initiative to the workload will probably end in failure. Be prepared to lengthen your timeline or scale back the scope of early initiatives.

12. Prioritize your CX tactics

When you finish brainstorming for initiatives to support your customer experience strategy, you might have a long list on your hands. Be sure to prioritize them so you get the biggest bang for the buck. This will require you to do a rough cost/benefit analysis for each of the major tactics. But also look for some low-hanging fruit that will provide visible quick wins.

Developing a first-class customer experience strategy will provide structure and discipline to your CX effort. Using these best practices throughout your design process will help ensure your business is on the path to consistently delighting your customers.

Learn more about customer journey mapping

Mapping the customer journey is a critical part of developing a customer experience strategy, but it can be an intimidating task if you've never created journey maps. We've simplified the process by providing guidelines and a template in a free mini-guide. Download "Journey Mapping the Digital Experience and Journey Mapping Template" and get started on improving CX today.

[i] Gartner: Key Findings From the Gartner Customer Experience Survey (2018)

[ii] NICE CXone: 2019 NICE CXone Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark, Global Consumers (2019)

[iii] Gartner: How to Excel at Strategy and Execution: A Marketing Perspective (2020)

[iv] PwC: Ingredients for great experiences

[v] PwC: Ingredients for great experiences

[vi] Salesforce: 40 Customer Service Statistics To Move Your Business Forward